Five members of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) are legally challenging the moves by the government to partially privatise the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).
They have filed an application praying the Human Rights Court to direct the government to “cease forthwith from undertaking or continuing any process of any kind whatsoever to privatise the Electricity Company of Ghana”.
Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosah, a pathologist; Naa Kordai Assimeh, a legal practitioner; Mr Kingsley Kwasitsu, a retired teacher; Dr Adolph Lutterodt, an educationist, and Ms Dede Amanor Wilks, a development specialist, also want the court to order the government to take immediate and effective steps to settle its $400 million debt to the ECG.
Joined to the suit as defendants are the Attorney-General, the Minister of Power and the ECG.
The applicants are urging the court to grant “an order of perpetual injunction directed at the defendants restraining them, their principals, agents, privies, workers howsoever or otherwise whomsoever from carrying out any operations or activities geared towards the privatisation or dismemberment of the ECG in any way or manner as intended by the government”.
They are also asking for any further or other orders that would inure to the “interest of the people of this country as this court would deem fit”.
It is inimical and risky
A statement of claim filed last Tuesday on their behalf by their lawyer, Mr Bright Akwetey, stated that the plaintiffs initiated the action in their individual and collective capacities as citizens of Ghana in respect of the intended privatisation of the ECG through the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA).
It said in the week beginning October 8, 2015, the Minister of Power released information which was published on pages 1 and 2 of the Daily Guide, a private newspaper, to the effect that the ECG was being privatised and that the MiDA had been appointed by the government to lead the privatisation process.
“The information indicated that the MiDA intends to conduct an international competitive tender to select a company with expertise in investment, management and distribution of electricity with the objective of selecting a suitable company to run the ECG, before the end of the year 2016.
Plaintiffs are of the view that the government’s action in putting up the ECG for privatisation is inimical to the interest of Ghana and Ghanaians,” the statement of claim argued.
It further opined that electricity was a security asset of grave national importance and value and, therefore, its control by any foreign or other private company was likely to jeopardise the security of Ghana, adding that “it is risky to entrust the administration of ECG to a private company now”.
The statement of claim held that “it is public knowledge that the government is owing ECG approximately $400 million, which money has been withheld from the ECG, apparently, deliberately, in order to weaken the administration of the ECG and to prepare it for take-over by a private company to the detriment of the economy of Ghana.
It is the contention of plaintiffs that if the government liquidates its debt to the ECG, the ECG will be able to pay its creditors, including Volta River Authority (VRA) and GRIDCO and can consequently improve distribution of electricity to Ghana and Ghanaians,” the statement of claim said.
The plaintiffs contended that a major problem with ECG was inefficient management, “but if the selection and appointment of management in ECG is de-politicised, the ECG can effectively deliver services to Ghana and Ghanaians”.
For instance, the plaintiffs said in the year 2011, “under competent and very well-motivated management and staff, ECG recorded a profit of GH¢ß60 million after tax. This testifies to the fact that given the right conditions and leadership the ECG can deliver”.
On the issue of power generation, the plaintiffs said the ECG was not responsible for the generation of power in Ghana.
“ECG does not transmit the power generated from the generating sources to consumers. ECG only distributes to the end-users for both domestic and commercial consumption and, therefore, it is unjust and improper for the government to take this action of privatising ECG to create the false impression that ECG is responsible also for power generation and transmission in Ghana,” it noted.
This position, according to the plaintiffs, was premised on the fact that there had been a shortfall in the generation of power in Ghana for distribution by the ECG for a “considerable length of time now but needless to repeat, that cannot be blamed on the ECG”.
The other contention of the plaintiffs was that the privatisation of the ECG would negatively impact on the welfare and interest of the people of Ghana.
“If the ECG is incapable of performing its functions effectively and efficiently now, the cause is traceable to the blight attitude deliberately adopted by the government towards ECG to prepare it for privatisation for the benefit of private investors but to the detriment of Ghana and Ghanaians.
It is the position of the plaintiffs that the government should pay the $400 million debt owed to ECG and to stop the privatisation process because no privatisation of any state enterprise since the year 1966 has yielded any good dividend to Ghana and Ghanaians and the privatisation of the ECG will not be an exception.”
The plaintiffs are of the view that the government will not stop the process of the privatisation of the ECG unless compelled by the court to do so.
In any case, the plaintiffs argued that they were convinced it was the duty of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) under the Divestiture of State Interest (Implementation) Act, 1993 (PNDC Law 326) to carry out the process of privatising ECG and not the MiDA.